Millennium After The Millennium Movie Review
Written by Joanna K. Neilson
Released by Dead End Films
Written and directed by Jason D. Morris
2018, 90 minutes, Not Yet Rated
Released on 25th October 2018
Growing up in the 1990s, Chris Carter’s aliens and FBI agent baby had become a red hot facet of pop culture, and it seemed you couldn’t move for David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson splayed across magazine covers or speculative articles about their relationship on and off-screen. The whole world knew what The X-Files was, more or less, from the other kids at school to my grandmother. Then Chris Carter got asked to create something new, and he came up with a show about serial killers, and darkness. So much darkness. Realism and darkness. Sorry, no Flukemen or twisted fire-starters here, and no tabloid friendly tensions between attractive male and female leads. Just darkness. Millennium’s energy came from a grimmer place, focusing (at least at first) solely on real world horrors, and it seems to have excelled its expectations and yet never quite reached the heights that it was going for. Neither did it survive to reach the ‘millennium’ it was named after.
My teenage memories of Millennium are that it was the vastly less interesting little brother of my beloved X-Files. It definitely lacked the sex appeal of Mulder and Scully fighting bizarre monsters of the week. However, this documentary provides a wonderful overview of the show’s creation, and the process of developing something that was, in many ways, slightly ahead of its time. Television at that time was a very different beast, and Millennium dared to take an unflinching look at the horror of serial killers and the misery they cause. It also explored conspiracies around the ‘Millennium Group’, ultimately pushing the boundaries of its ‘realism’ mantra as more supernatural elements were pulled in. Or not. It wasn’t often clear. The uneven objective of the show, and an initial commitment to unremitting bleakness, likely lost it more viewers than it ever gained back.
This documentary examines the struggle to keep Millennium’s story coherent, as it was passed to fresh showrunners for season 2. The tone shifted, familiar characters changed alliances, and the ferocious pressure to make something ‘movie quality’ every eight days soon took a considerable toll on the dedicated production teams. The exhausted writers, producers and directors fought to ensure strong storytelling. Interviews with Chris Carter, Lance Henriksen, and everyone in between, take us deep into how it was all put together, and why some controversial decisions were made. There’s obligatory griping at the studio for wanting something more ‘commercial’, when Chris Carter and others insisted that this should be ‘art’. Well, fair enough. There’s an interesting section where they discuss what they’d have liked to see happen if the show had continued or was resurrected. While a few juicier anecdotes are glossed over, there’s a lot of interesting information to take in and some casting controversies get discussed. Several frustrations are raised, but the actors do seem very proud to have worked on the show.
As someone mostly unfamiliar with Millennium, I was pulled right in and enjoyed learning how the three seasons developed. My only gripe with it is some overused, intrusive background music that plays incessantly during the talking heads sections. The interviews are enough by themselves. The word ‘dark’ comes up a little too often as well, but Lance Henriksen's random anecdote about a big rock and David Duchovny’s head injects some unexpected playfulness.The impression I take from this documentary is that the show cared deeply for its characters, victims and killers alike, and strove to reach the truth and some sort of justice within its nightmare world - themes I personally hadn’t appreciated during its first broadcast in the late 1990s. So I’ve gained a much deeper appreciation for Millennium’s complicated ambitions, to the extent I honestly want to give the show another chance. I wonder if it’s quite as bleak as I remember, or would its unflinching obsession with realism’ pale against the likes of similarly ‘gritty’ modern procedural shows, and the flashy grand guignol of Hannibal and Dexter? Still, even The X-Files have recently been resurrected, so why not Millennium next? If it was ahead of its time even back then, perhaps the best time for it, and Frank Black’s return to the darkness, is now?
For me, this is a strong 3/5. For a long-term Millennium fan it may even be higher.